Serves me right for saying that building your own clubs is easy and
Immediately I saw a slew of postings and E-mail with
the following patterns:
This was about 1993, and it gave me pause. How come none of these matches my experience with
clubmaking? As of that day, I could only remember two "clunker"
clubs I had made: one was one of my
first three, and the other was deliberately experimental. Have I just
been lucky? Am I encouraging fellow Internetters to waste their money
"I once made a clone club. It was a
clumsy. I've concluded that all homemade clones (maybe all clones) are
clunkers. I'll only use name brands from now on."
"I bought a club from a custom clubmaker, using the best
here] shaft and clubhead. It came out so light I can't swing it. What
I do, and how could it have come out badly with good, expensive
"I bought a [brand name, popular model] driver. It's my
shaft. Now, whenever it's important to get a good drive, I hit nothing
but high slices. What's wrong? I'll never use a graphite shaft again."
I mentally went over the clubs I'd made in the past six
noticed something interesting: After my first three clubs (a wedge, a
and a putter), I spent a lot of time poring over catalogs, measuring
clubs, and even doing calculations before ordering the components. This
undoubtedly stems from my engineering background and my own tendency to
"design first, then measure twice to cut once."
But I'm convinced that it also warded off
"the clunkers". All the clubs
since the first three have generated reactions ranging from "this feels
right; my old clubs didn't" to "this is great; can you make me one like
How come? Well, my first consideration was not
what the club looked
like. The "clones" try to sell themselves on the basis that they look
a popular model. But I've seen different companies' Ping clone heads
cosmetically resembled Pings, but differed (from the Ping and among
in the much more important characteristics like weight, loft, and sole
shape. No wonder selecting a club based on looks results in a high
Instead, I concentrate on finding out as much as I can about
and the frame of the golfer for whom I'm making the clubs. I think
what I'm trying to accomplish, and choose the components accordingly.
may not be as much fun as making something that looks exactly like a
Taylor-Made RAC... until the golfer gets them to the course. Then the
accuracy of cloning
the "look" will matter less than the accuracy of matching the club to
golfer's game and frame.
Fast-forward to 2017! This "web book" records the criteria I
use in designing golf
clubs. I started it in the mid-1990s as text files on a "bulletin
board" computer at Princeton (part of the
and have maintained and occasionally updated it ever since.
My motivation at the time was mostly selfish; I would no longer have to compose the answer
to the same question over and over. The e-book of text files became a web site around
2000, and the
started around 2004.
My design approach isn't a step-by-step design method; I don't
think that exists.
But if you understand the material here, and apply it to the most
characteristics of the clubs you try to build, you're going to make
In the centerfold of the 1998 GolfWorks catalog, attached to
the order form,
is a form that says, "Planning to buy new clubs? We'll give you a free
fitting via FAX." It then has a half-page questionnaire that they
sufficient to make a recommendation about what to look for in a club
matches you. While I wouldn't ask exactly the same
-- indeed, I don't
trust the whole concept of "fitting by mail" -- I'd like
to mention what they are to start you thinking about what is important
in designing a set of clubs:
In my opinion, this is a good starting point. I'd add questions about
physical measurements, swing plane, how often you play, etc. And I miss
in this list two of the most important considerations: how often do you
practice, and do you take lessons.
I believe it's hard to get a full idea of what the golfer needs without
actually watching him or her hit golf balls, at least on the driving
range and preferably while trying to score on the golf course. But by
all means remember that a very important consideration
is: what is the golfer using now, and what sort of shot does
he do with those clubs? That's an essential -- and too often
overlooked -- part of clubfitting.
When you hit a poor drive, do you have a specific tendency to:
(top it, sky it, hit it very low, pull it, hook it, push it, slice
it, straight but unsolid hit, very inconsistent, don't know)?
- What is your confidence level with the driver?
How far does your average drive carry (no roll included)?
(up to 135, 136-170, 171-210, 211-245, 246 and up)
When you hit a poor iron shot, do you have a specific tendency to:
(same list as driver)?
- What is the longest iron you hit with confidence?
On what part of the clubface do you tend to hit the ball?
(Toe, heel, center)
- What best describes the direction you hit with woods and
(Slice, push, straight, pull, hook)
- What is your golf glove size?
From your own point of view, what do you want from the new clubs?
(Hit the ball higher, hit the ball lower, stop slicing, stop pushing
the ball, stop hooking, stop pulling the ball, hit the ball straighter,
hit the ball longer.)
- Shaft material (preferred, and currently using)?
What is your current club model, size, and shaft flex?
another shortcoming of the fitting by mail. The set of questions is
fixed. But every time I fit a golfer, the answer to one of the standard
questions will lead to another question, one that isn't on the form and
may be more important than any that are on the form.
Anyway, you should get the idea that this e-book on the
of golf clubs will suggest how to match the clubs to the golfer. Ignore
the considerations herein, and you will have your share
What follows reflects my belief that the most important
things about a club are:
The "book" is divided into three parts:
- The right set makeup. Driver? Maybe. Where do irons change
into hybrids or lofted fairway woods? How many wedges? Things like that.
- Length and lie to match the golfer's size and swing plane. Length
is something you need to design in; lie can be tweaked after the clubs
"Heft" factors: swingweight and club moment of inertia.
"Flex" factors: shaft flex, flex profile, and torque.
Whether the clubhead is a blade or a cavity-back.
Grip size -- and is the grip in good condition.
Everything else is way less important.
1. The Basics
- This introduction.
- Physical principles
- reviews a few concepts
from physics before we start: centrifugal force, torque, moment of
inertia, vibrational frequency,
and what about a club makes a golf ball go far.
- The swing -
This applies the physics
to a few fundamental golf questions, such as: Where does the power come
from in the swing to generate clubhead speed? How does impact convert
the clubhead characteristics and clubhead velocity into launch
conditions like ball
speed, launch angle, and spin? How do launch conditions translate to
trajectory and distance?
2. Whole-Club Measures
These are the characteristics of the club that are not limited to a
measurement of a single component, but rather require fitting a
properties of the shaft and head to the golfer.
- Length - how
long should you make
the club, and what are the design problems a nonstandard length gives
- Lie Angle -
what clubhead lie angle will result in a level head at impact?
- Heft (swingweight and
moment of inertia) - what it is, how to estimate
it from your design, how to measure it in a finished club, how to
it, and matching it across your set.
- Shaft flex -
how to select it, how to change
it, and matching it across your set.
3. Customizing the Clubs
OK, now we have the gross parameters of the clubs for a golfer.
Let's get down to specific components, clubs, and golfers.
- Customizing the clubs
- given the golfer's
game and frame, what features should the club have, and how does each
of a club affect the way it plays?
This includes sections on:
- Special Situations
- clubs for women,
clubs for children, drivers, wedges, putters, and clone clubs.
Many of these sections discuss things that a clubfitter must
consider when fitting a golfer for clubs -- things like shaft flex,
swingweight, etc. For each of these, I try to touch on:
- What is it?
- What does it do for performance? For feel? (Note that
performance and feel are two different things.)
- How do you measure the golfer for it? (This is the fitting
- How do you measure the club for it?
- How do you adjust it to be what you want, in a club you're
building or an existing club you're modifying?
I hope this information helps you and those who use the clubs
as much as it has helped me, my family and friends, and a lot of
clubmakers who have learned from these Design Notes.
Last modified May 24,